Monday, June 18th, 2018
Local program aims to help at-risk youth
By Sydney Albert
CELINA – A new summer program aims to teach at-risk youth about responsibility by giving them the opportunity to raise chickens and learn about agriculture.
The Ripple Program was created through a partnership between Mercer County 4-H, Mercer County Fairgrounds, the Wright State University-Lake Campus’ ag program and the Mercer County Juvenile Court.
Greg Homan, a Mercer County commissioner and a Lake Campus associate professor of agriculture, said the program’s name was inspired by the act of dropping a pebble into water: Such a simple action can make waves of impact.
The juvenile court already offers different summer activities for young adults, such as a running club, but nothing like this, he said. Homan felt youth livestock projects are good mechanisms to teach responsibility and life skills, and wanted to try putting in place such a program for at-risk children.
“I was always interested, it’s always kind of been a passion of mine to get something like this going,” he said.
Seven youths are participating in the Ripple Program, meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays for a few hours to receive lessons on agriculture or to tour local farms.
The group has already taken tours to observe various aspects of the agricultural industry, among them dairy and poultry farms, Homan said. Other activities are also planned for the summer.
A big part of the program is giving kids a chance to raise their own livestock. The group is responsible for feeding and caring for 25 broiler chickens hosted at the Mercer County Fairgrounds. They also will be part of a special display class at the upcoming Mercer County Fair, and when the season is over, the chickens will be processed and donated to CALL Food Pantry.
The program was made possible by a $1,300 Cargill grant and Big K Mills, which is providing the chicken feed at no cost. Homan also thanked Mercer County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Pat Zitter and the youth probation officers, who have shown support and and a willingness to give the new program a try.
Most of the kids involved in the program wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to engage in 4-H activities, Homan said. Keeping young people involved in positive, structured activities, particularly in the summer when they’re out of school, is important, Homan said, noting that’s when they’re most at risk of making bad choices.
“We’re hoping we can reach these young people and build some life skills in them, teach them about agriculture and expose them to something they’re not familiar with,” he continued.
This is the first edition of the Ripple program. It will be evaluated at the end of the season to see if changes need to be made for next year. If things go well, Homan said he would look into possibly expanding the program.